10/14/2011

High risk teen under constant surveillance

Lloyd Macdonald . . . concern to police
Lloyd Macdonald . . . concern to police
AN EASTER ROSS teenager at the centre of a "secret trial" is regarded as so dangerous he has been under 24-hour police surveillance, the Ross-shire Journal can reveal.
We can reveal Lloyd Macdonald was found guilty of a sexualised breach of the peace and on September 2 was sentenced to a period of imprisonment after the trial at Inverness.
No explanation has been given as to why the press were prohibited from attending the trial or accessing details of the case.
It has now emerged Macdonald's round the clock monitoring has been costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds.
Sheriff Margaret Neilson granted a motion by procurator fiscal Andrew Laing to exclude the press from access to the case and this sparked criticism from Scotland's top legal commentators.
The law chief for the Highlands and Islands and Grampian, Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young has told the Ross-shire Journal he cannot intervene in the row. The charges Macdonald faced and his sentencing are still under wraps.
Although the sheriff made an order that the trial was to be heard in "closed court" the order unusually meant not only the public were not allowed to attend but the press was not allowed access either.
Exclusion of the press is exceptional and only usually arises in the interests of national security.
No contempt of court order, however, was put in place and the Ross-shire Journal is naming the accused as a matter of public interest. Macdonald, we can reveal is regarded by police as an "extremely dangerous" teenager.
According to a report to a meeting of the Northern Joint Police Board he is classed as posing a risk of serious harm to the public. Although he is not named in the report, investigations by our journalists have confirmed it is Macdonald.
The report before the board stated that Ross-shire police officers have spent a significant amount of time monitoring him.
The round the clock watch on the youngster commenced when he returned to the Highlands after being released from secure accommodation he was sent to as a juvenile. The report stated he had been put back on remand after displaying "very concerning behaviour" during the short periods he was unsupervised.
"Monitoring of a Multi-Agency Public Protection Agency (MAPPA) Level 3 Offender has presented challenges and concerns," says the report. He is described as "an extremely dangerous person" and that monitoring will continue until he turns 18. It is believed he was 18 in August.
It also refers to this person under the Safer Communities section of the report when it explains, "A MAPPA Level 3 Offender was released from secure accommodation and subject to strict supervision requirements. After short periods of unsupervised time the subject was detained and arrested following very concerning behaviour which resulted in him being cautioned and charged with a sexualised Breach of the Peace and thereafter remanded in custody."
In the light of the further information obtained by our investigations, Rosalind MacInnes, author of Scots Law for Journalists, who described the press ban as "extraordinary" and "outlandish" at the time, said the background made the press being allowed to attend even more important.
"I think that the press should be able to report a criminal trial, regardless of whether the accused is considered to be a public danger or not, but obviously if the police have these concerns, this strengthens the public interest in knowing who he is and what happened at his trial." she said.
"Clearly where issues of public safety are considered to arise from a court case it is all the more important that the public should be able to see and be told about the administration in the courts for which they pay."
Scottish Provincial Press, the owners of this newspaper, tried unsuccessfully to have reporting restrictions lifted when the accused was appearing for sentence at Inverness Sheriff Court on Friday, September 2.
The case was heard at summary level the process for less serious offences. No papers were ever released but we have learned Macdonald was found guilty and is due for release later this month.
We were told the only way we could get the reporting ban lifted was to present a petition to the Nobile Officium a legal process involving the High Court of Justiciary or the Court of Session which would cost thousands of pounds. Local MSP David Stewart raised the case in the Scottish Parliament with Solicitor General Lesley Thomson who agreed that court proceedings should be in public so that justice is transparent.
But under common law she said judges can decide in exceptional circumstances to exclude the public and the media.
She said in the Macdonald case she was satisfied the case was exceptional.

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